What Moves You

I, like many readers of the Slow Travel Tours blog, have been to a lot of places in Europe.  I’ve been to Vienna and Budapest; I’ve spent a fair bit of time up and down the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain, I’ve hung out with hippies in Cristiana in Copenhagen and beer enthusiasts in Rome.  I’ve eaten fresh buffalo mozzarella sitting on a little hill in the ruins of Pompeii and investigated, quite thoroughly, the bowels of the Nyugati train and subway station in Budapest.  I love all these places. While I have been to a few places in Europe that didn’t really do it for me 100%, I usually find something to love just about every place I go.

But there is love, then there is what moves you.

There are those few places that go past one simply enjoying them, or even loving them.  Once in a while the traveler gets to a place that resonates with them on a more profound level.  New agers or Buddhists might say there is a past life connection.  Others might say there is no rhyme or reason to why certain places call out to certain people.   How many of you reading this post have a certain special connection with one or more places, and why do you think that kind of connection is there?

In Europe, the first place I felt this way was in Venice.


It may seem strange, to some – a relationship with a city, or a place.  But this is the relationship that travelers and expats and even people who never left their hometown winegondolahave.  For me, some places take on a life of their own.  They can be temptresses, they can be foes.  They can be lovers.  They can be dudes you totally want to party with.  They can be teachers, and they can be combinations of all of these things.  And just like all relationships, the longer you stick with it the more it evolves.

I guess for me, Venice started out the lover; I was enraptured for many years.  So enraptured that it consumed me.  For Venice, I was the easy lover – not too demanding, easily placated with a glass of wine or three… I even loved her graffiti.  I kept returning for more, and eventually moved there.  That is when things started to change.  Living in a place changes the dynamics of your relationship with it.  Now, When I land in Venice, I am so grateful.  I am grateful that I know how to get around and where I have to go to get a glass of wine or my first pizza before I go home to pass out from extreme exhaustion.  I watch all the other travelers arriving and getting on the bus or vaporetto – the public transportation boats – with what seems to be 50% of them worried at that point how they will find their way to their lodgings.  (Some of the remaining percent will wait until they get to the vaporetto stop the hotel told them about.  Then they will freak out.)  I was there once, and I continue to be there, in places I have not been before.  But I have been in Venice enough that I know Venice, and she knows me. And even after all these years together, she still moves me.

The three other places that have moved me are; the city of Paris…

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I am moved every time I walk out the door, it doesn’t even matter what neighborhood.  And the closer I get to the river, the more intense it becomes.  Food markets on sunny days. The unmatchable city gardens.  Wine and cheese sitting on a blanket on the quai.  Of all the cities in the world, Paris makes me the happiest.

The Ribeira Sacra region in the Galicia province of northwest Spain….

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Like stepping into another world, with vineyards and monasteries and ghosts everywhere.  I’ve been lucky enough to spend a bit of time in the Ribeira Sacra now, and I am in awe of the people who live and work on these beautiful, but very steep slopes.  The very first moment I drove through one of these valleys, it got to me.  Immediately.  Why there, and not some other valley?

And finally, Hvar Island in Croatia.

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There are many places in Croatia that I love but my heart truly belongs to Hvar Island.  An island with an ancient history, there are so many layers to it that I constantly feel myths and legends all around me.  While I adore hip, fun loving Hvar Town, there is so HvarIslandPoppies (2) (300x225)much more to Hvar Island – lush vineyards and olive trees, vegetable gardens on plots first planted when the Greeks were around in the 4th century BC, tiny little churches on beaches, and on hills.  Plus the sea is a thousand shades of blue.


Aside from the Venetian architecture in Hvar Town on Hvar Island,  and the extraordinary beauty of all of them, there are not too many similarities with these four places.  Why do four very different places all move me in a way that transcends the usual travel experience?

I’d say I wish I knew, but I am glad I don’t.  All I can say is, that in all of these places, I feel calm, I feel happy, and I feel at the same time both changed and exactly the same.


Shannon Essa leads small-group tours focusing on wine, food, and local culture in Croatia, Slovenia, Northern Italy and Northern Spain & Portugal.

Discover the backstreets of Venice or the wine, craft beer, and slow food of Piedmont, Italy. In Spain, experience the rustic foods and low-key lifestyle in beautiful Galicia, the wineries along the Camino de Santiago in the Bierzo region, or the justifiably famous wine regions and local food traditions of Catalonia. See many of Croatia’s most beautiful sights and learn about the rebirth of one of Europe’s oldest wine areas. And see all this with Shannon, who loves unique and out of the way wine and food experiences.

When not in Europe, Shannon does her eating and drinking in San Diego, California.

Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.

GrapeHops Galicia tour in June 2014 is sold out, but an extra week in June may be added. Email GrapeHops for more information.  There are a few spots left on the May 2014 Croatia tour, which includes a few days on Hvar Island. In July 2014 a special tour of Venice and Bologna co-hosted with Palmabella’s Italy will end just before the famous Redentore Festival in Venice, for those who want to stay on for the festivities.

Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.

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